The Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE), is one of eight offices within the United States Department of Education (ED). The OESE oversees the quality of education received by students in elementary and secondary (high school) schools across the United States. This is done through their six main programs: Academic Improvement and Teacher Quality Programs, Impact Aid Programs, Office of Indian Education, Office of Migrant Education, School Support and Technology Programs and lastly School Achievement and School Accountability Programs. Through these programs the OESE works to improve the quality of teaching and learning within elementary and secondary schools as well as ensure equal access to services and ensure equal opportunity.
The U.S Department of Education was created in 1980 by combining offices from several federal agencies.The OESE was a part of the new Department of Education and was created to enforce and implement the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and its many amendments and formulate funding programs related to Elementary and Secondary Education. Whether or not the OESE’s programs and policies have been successful in improving the quality of education across the U.S has been greatly debated. The constitutionality of the Department of Education itself has also been highly questioned since the first Office of Education was created in the late 1800’s and abolished soon after. The Federal government’s involvement into education has been called an unconstitutional intrusion into State and community affairs, and many Presidential candidates had the Department’s abolition as a platform for their campaigns.
OESE programs are authorized by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and were reauthorized by numerous amendments to that Act and also the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
There have been several controversies surrounding whether or not the OESE’s programs are actually improving the quality of education in the U.S. Specifically, there has been Controversy around the OESE’s Reading First program and its effectiveness. Reading First awards grants to states and are then used by the states to buy teaching materials and pay for training.
A former elementary school teacher has been nominated by President Obama to be the next Assistant Secretary of Education for Elementary and Secondary Education. Deborah S. Delisle, who has stated her “firm belief that a zip code should never predetermine the quality of a child’s education,” was nominated on January 23, but the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions has yet to schedule her confirmation hearing.
Born in Connecticut in September 1953, Delisle earned a B.S. in Education at Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts, and an M.Ed. in Special Education at Kent State University in 1986. Delisle began her career as an elementary teacher in Connecticut in the 1970s, relocated to Ohio in 1983, and has served in many roles over the years at the school district level, including as School Principal, Director of Academic Services, Director of Curriculum and Professional Development, and Coordinator of Gifted and Talented Programs.
From 2001 to 2003, she served as Associate Superintendent for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District (CHUHSD) in suburban Cleveland, Ohio, and as Superintendent from March 2004 to 2008. She then served as the State Superintendent of Public Instruction for the Ohio Department of Education from October 2008 to April 2011. The end of her tenure was controversial, for her resignation letter charged that Republican Governor John Kasich forced her out by threatening her with dismissal. In a show of support and appreciation, in August 2011 CHUHSD named a building in her honor, the Deborah S. Delisle Educational Options Center, which houses the district’s registration and assessment office for transfer students and an alternative high school.
Delisle has served on several education boards, including the Governing Board of the Minority Student Achievement Network, Executive Board of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, and the Council of Chief State School Officers Executive Board. In addition to working in primary and secondary education, Delisle has taught graduate level courses at Kent State, Ursuline College, the University of North Colorado and Simon Frasier University in British Columbia.
She is married to Dr. James R. Delisle, a retired professor of education who specializes in issues related to gifted children. They have one son, Matt, now an adult.
Former Ohio Schools Chief Deb Delisle Explains What Ohio Can Teach the Nation (by Molly Bloom, NPR/State Impact)
State Schools Superintendent Deborah Delisle Resigns (by Karen Farkas, Cleveland Plain Dealer)
Meet Deb Delisle, Ohio’s New Superintendent (by Deborah Delisle, Columbus Parent)
Deborah Delisle Named State’s New Education Chief (by Karl Turner, Cleveland Plain Dealer)
The new chief federal official for K-12 education empathizes easily with students who face difficulties in school. Born in 1958 to Mexican immigrants, Dr. Thelma Meléndez de Santa Ana arrived at kindergarten unable to speak or read English, and found the daunting task of learning her new language complicated by ostracism from her Anglo classmates. Although her kindergarten teacher was helpful and sympathetic, Meléndez de Santa Ana later recalled a humiliating first grade experience, when a teacher placed her in the slowest group of readers. “They called us ‘the buzzards,’ and all we did was recite the alphabet over and over and over again.” Later, Meléndez de Santa Ana was told by a high school counselor she had no chance of going to UCLA. Proving that counselor wrong, she earned a B.A. in Sociology from UCLA in 1981 and a Ph.D. in language, literacy and learning from the Rossier School of Education at USC in 1995. She was confirmed for her new position on July 24, 2009.